HC Deb 11 May 1967 vol 746 cc1837-9

Considered in Committee; reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

9.44 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

As the House knows, we welcome the Bill, which assists in the building up of a modern and efficient fishing fleet, which is particularly important, if and when this country enters the Common Market. Before the Bill finally leaves us, I want to say that the industry as a whole, and certainly the distant water section of it, which I know best, will be pleased when it is able to stand on its own feet, without subsidies. I am sure that this view will be echoed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It is only fair to point out, and here I think that the Minister responsible for fisheries will agree with me, that the need for a subsidy lies in reasons beyond the control of the British fishing industry. These are reasons which have been referred to in the previous debate, such as foreign subsidies. Above all, there is the extension of fishery limits, often unilaterally made, which have excluded our own fishing trawlers from many hundreds of square miles of sea, and meant that they have had to give up some of their best traditional grounds.

The Bill helps to subsidise replacement of the fishing fleet. Any company has to have a planned programme of replacement. There are still difficulties in their way, such as competitive tendering and, above all, the scrapping ratios. Whenever these problems have been raised we have been referred to the fisheries review which was announced in November, 1964, and which was due to be completed in 1966— two years later. Three times this year, in fisheries debates, we have continued to press for the review to be completed, and we will continue to do so. We cannot understand why it should take three years to complete.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, speaking during an earlier stage of the Bill, said: We make no apology for the delay. We know that the results of the review will be well worth waiting for."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 980.] I hope that they will be. But I fear that, like so much Socialist planning, we may find that there is much talk and precious little action.

The Bill removes the upper limits to grants given for building vessels in the fishing industry, but an affirmative Resolution is needed before the subsidies can be increased by 5 per cent. I hope that we can have an assurance that that measure will be introduced as soon as possible.

In commending the Bill for the last time, I should like to say how pleased I am to hear that after the Recess hon. Members on both sides of the House will have the opportunity to visit the Humber ports so that they can see for themselves the fine, modern trawlers which now make up the British fishing fleet.

9.48 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for welcoming the Bill, which does a very useful job. It has been welcomed by everyone concerned. I agree that the industry would be delighted if it were able to stand on its own feet. I hope that that day will come. However, it is amazing that the industry always gets this advice from people claiming more for another industry. I hope that when the fishing industry does without subsidies, others will follow suit.

We cannot discuss the loss of fishing grounds; that is not what the Bill is about. But I remind the hon. Gentleman that steps had to be taken to protect our own fishing grounds for our fleets, and people were grateful for that. These matters work both ways. The scrapping ratio does not come within the Bill either. That was laid down a considerable time ago. It is being examined to see exactly what line we should take.

The review has gone on for some time because this is a complicated industry; do not let us pretend that it is not. We have secured a fairly efficient modern fleet. The hon. Gentleman in his concluding words, said that he was glad that hon. Members on both sides of the House would be able to visit the Humber ports where there is a most excellent fishing fleet, provided with Government grants. I am sorry that I will not be able to join them, but I hope that they have a happy outing in the knowledge that tonight we are providing a little more to assist the industry on the road which it has to take.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.